A three-judge panel at the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld two previous rulings on Thursday that found Christian cake artist Jack Phillips guilty of discrimination against a same-sex couple because he refused to make a cake for their wedding. The court ruled that Phillips cannot use his religious beliefs or free-speech rights to refuse to make such cakes.
"I think the ruling means that some Colorado citizens have a First Amendment right to believe what they want and to act on those beliefs — such as Lé Bakery Sensual of Denver or Azucar Bakery. As long as you hold the right view on same-sex marriage, you can act on your conscience," said Nicolle Martin, Phillips' lead attorney.
"But for people like Jack Phillips, you are not entitled to those beliefs."
The Associated Press reported that the case stems from an incident in 2012, when gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins requested Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, bake them a cake for their wedding. The Christian baker said that he can make them other items, but not a wedding cake, citing his religious beliefs that deem marriage a union solely between a man and a woman.
Ria Mar, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado representing Mullins and Craig, said that no one in America should be turned away from a shop for "who they are or who they love."
"When every lesbian or gay person, every woman, every person of color, every person of every faith can walk into a store, a bank, a hospital, and know that they will get the same service as everyone else, we will have won. Until then, we continue to fight for the equal treatment we all deserve," Mar's statement added.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco argued, however, that it is an "American freedom" to decline using one's artistic talents to promote messages one disagrees with.
"Government has a duty to protect people's freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally rather than force them to adopt the government's views," Tedesco said, according to Fox News.
Due to the court's ruling, Phillips will now be required by the government to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples if he continues his business, and he will need to retrain his staff to follow the state's anti-discrimination policies.
The Christian baker said that the court's ruling "is not fair."
"It shows that some people have more equal rights than others. When you're not in line with the same-sex agenda, you don't have as much equal rights," he argued.
The baker said that he has stopped baking wedding cakes since last year, and while he would like to one day resume his passion, he can not do that as long as the government is telling him "which ones I can do and which ones I can't."
Gay couples have won a number of similar cases in other states, The Wall Street Journal pointed out.
The Oregon labor commissioner ordered earlier this summer the Christian owners of "Sweetcakes by Melissa" to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple for "for emotional and mental suffering" because they refused to make them a wedding cake.
Similarly, in a 2013 New Mexico case, the owners of an Albuquerque wedding photography company were told they cannot deny services to same-sex couples due to their beliefs.